CHARLOTTE, NC — As school districts across North Carolina plan closures May 16 — the day teachers from across the state are planning to march for improved education funding in Raleigh — the state’s top educator says he won’t be there and is against schools closing the day of the event.
The North Carolina teacher rally on May 16 is one of a string of similar protests around the U.S. In Arizona, for example, teachers held a historic six-day protest that ended when the state increased education spending by $100 million, which will give Arizona teachers — some of the lowest paid in the country — a 20 percent pay increase over the next two years. Teachers in West Virginia walked out of the classrooms for nine days, which prompted the state to give them a 5 percent raise.
“I absolutely support teachers, but I do not plan to attend a protest on a school day,” North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson said on his Twitter account May 8. “We know it affects not only students, but also parents, hourly workers who work at our schools, and also other teachers who might not be taking part in that day,” he said.
Teacher salaries have increased each of the past four years, and teachers will get another raise this year, he said, adding that “North Carolina is one of the top states for fastest rising teacher pay.”
According to the National Education Association, North Carolina has the 44th lowest average salary for teachers in the U.S. with an average salary of $49,970.
SEE ALSO: After Arizona Teacher Posts Pay Stub, See How NC Teachers Rate
“These are local decisions made with the safety of students in mind, but I hope more school boards do not have to close schools that day,” Johnson said. “Protesting is a right, but it can be just as effective during non-school hours.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox announced last week that Queen City area schools would close that day after at least 2,000 teachers and staff said they wanted to the day off.
Mooresville Graded School District made the same call after about 42 percent of its instructional staff asked for leave that day.
“We expect the number to increase as the day of the rally gets closer, and we don’t have substitute-teacher capacity to cover all of the requests,” Wilcox said, adding that he supported the teachers’ right to rally. “To our teachers, I say this: I share your concerns. I hear your voices calling for change and I know that you lift your voices not only for your own benefit but because you care about students, their futures and our community.”
Photo via Shutterstock